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Article

Queer as Materialism  

Sophie Noyé and Gianfranco Rebucini

Since the 2000s, forms of articulation between materialist and Marxist theory and queer theory have been emerging and have thus created a “queer materialism.” After a predominance of poststructuralist analyses in the social sciences in the1980s and 1990s, since the late 1990s, and even more so after the economic crisis of 2008, a materialist shift seems to be taking place. These recompositions of the Marxist, queer, and feminist, which took place in activist and academic arenas, are decisive in understanding how the new approaches are developing in their own fields. The growing legitimacy of feminist and queer perspectives within the Marxist left is part of an evolution of Marxism on these issues. On the other side, queer activists and academics have highlighted the economic and social inequalities that the policies of austerity and capitalism in general induce among LGBTQI people and have turned to more materialist references, especially Marxist ones, to deploy an anticapitalist and antiracist argument. Even if nowadays one cannot speak of a “queer materialist” current as such, because the approaches grouped under this term are very different, it seems appropriate to look for a “family resemblance” and to group them together. Two specific kinds of “queer materialisms” can thus be identified. The first, queer Marxism, seeks to theorize together Marxist and queer theories, particularly in normalization and capitalist accumulation regimes. The second, materialist queer feminism, confronts materialist/Marxist feminist thought with queer approaches and thus works in particular on the question of heteropatriarchy based on this double tradition.

Article

Gender and Foreign Policy  

Alexis Leanna Henshaw

While explicit efforts at gender mainstreaming in foreign policy are relatively recent, a view of foreign policy through a feminist lens illustrates that foreign policy has always been gendered. Feminist scholarship in this area suggests that masculinity has historically shaped foreign policy in important ways, while the increased presence of women in national governments, government cabinets, and the diplomatic corps has produced some notable change in policy outcomes. An examination of two key concepts related to policymaking and gender—securitization and gender mainstreaming—shows how gender issues have come to the forefront of national and international security agendas since 2000. In particular, the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) agenda promulgated by the United Nations has obligated individual states to address gendered security issues, and dozens of countries have responded with their own National Action Plans. While these national efforts have led to some improvement in the status of women and related humanitarian outcomes, feminist scholars generally agree that the WPS agenda has stalled in its efforts to produce transformative change. As a way forward, feminist foreign policy stances promise to produce more comprehensive outcomes, though a backlash toward gender mainstreaming and the re-emergence of more traditional security threats has led to questions about the future of such efforts.

Article

What’s a “Norm” After Queer Movements?  

Antoine Idier

The question of “norm” is central to queer theory. As this reading of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble (1990), regarded as one of the pioneering texts in queer theory, shows, queer theory has consistently discussed the actual power of the norm, how it works, and how it is appropriate for minority movements to position themselves in relation to norms to abolish them. As many writings and discussions on this subject suggest, the reflection on the norm is based on an internal feminist discussion of identity. Just as there is no naturalness of sex, there is also no natural, preexisting identity. Denaturalizing identity by asserting that identities do not preexist when they are invoked calls for strategic use of identity while at the same time conducting a critique of how identities are produced. More fundamentally, the discussion of norms is linked to a reflection on “priority.” By asserting that there is no being or ontology that precedes socialization and the application of social norms, Butler denies any relevance to the project of reconnecting with practices and identities that have not been shaped by these norms and are thus considered free, escaping power. Postulating that there is no state prior to law, norm, and power calls for strategies of resistance and subversion. There is a need to place oneself within the normative devices and structures produced by power to subvert them. The notion of “performativity” condenses this conclusion by describing the possibility of producing acts that, within the normative system, displace normative meanings. Resistance and subversion lie in the parodic game, in the displacement of gender norms within the structure that produces them. The assertion that “there is no political position purified of power, and perhaps that impurity is what produces agency as the potential interruption and reversal of regulatory regimes” leads to a radical redefinition of politics. All subversive politics thus remain dependent on prevailing norms and structures, within which it acts to contest them. Subversion can only ever be local and never total, as much temporally as geographically. It can only intervene in a place, at a given moment, with reference to a given normative apparatus. Insofar as it remains necessary always to draw on a norm in order to challenge and resignify it, it will never be possible to contest all social norms definitively; it will only be possible to weaken certain ones from time to time. It then remains to identify, at some point, the power with which one wishes to fight, and the most effective strategies to weaken it.

Article

Gender Equality Policies and European Union Politics  

Christina Fiig

The European Union (EU) has been characterized as a “gender regime” with its distinctive patterns of gender (in)equalities and path dependencies. Gender equality policies have developed as a genuine policy field over the past decades from a single treaty article to a comprehensive legal and political framework dealing with multiple sources of discrimination. Besides, gender equality policies are frequently linked to other political projects and policy goals. Gender equality is often presented as a foundational value of the EU with reference to the Treaties of Amsterdam and Lisbon. Research has pointed out that it is an important aspect of the foundational myth of the EU. The development of gender equality policies has been characterized by alternations between progress and stagnation. These policies are also met by resistance. However, a general conclusion is that EU institutions have been important catalysts in shaping women’s economic, political, and social equality in Europe and in putting equality rights into effect. Historical, political, and sociological interpretations of the EU’s gender equality policies illustrate these dynamics. Gender equality policies are described in terms of the following phases: the 1970s (associated with women’s civil and economic rights and equal treatment), the 1980s (equal opportunities, positive action), and the 1990s (gender mainstreaming in the whole union and for all policy areas). Since the 2000s, a fourth phase of new policies against multiple discrimination has been developing. These different stages of EU gender policy continue to coexist. When the Treaty of Amsterdam entered into force in 1999, the EU committed to a new approach to work for gender equality through mainstreaming. Gender equality and nondiscrimination became guiding legal principles of the union. The Treaty of Lisbon reflects core vaues of the EU such as democracy, human rights and gender equality. One can approach gender equality policies as situated between concerns for gender equality and multiple discrimination on the one hand and priorities of economy and finance on the other. Critical voices in the literature have pointed out that these priorities have outperformed ideas about gender equality. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, EU austerity policies represent a “critical juncture” that could undo the long-term progress achieved in gender equality in Europe. Besides, gender equality policies suffer from a gap between institutionalization on the one hand and a lack of consistency and full political commitment on the other. In a context of a more permanent crisis scenario in the EU, gender equality policies are undergoing transformations and they are subject to change to the worse. A key point is that dynamic gender relations, multiple discrimination, and women’s various roles in society matter for understanding the EU and European integration. This raises questions about the EU’s role as a driving force for gender equality and against multiple discrimination. What happened to gender equality policies and to gendered effects of other policies as a result of the various crises in the EU?

Article

Feminism in Foreign Policy  

Kristen P. Williams

The traditional/mainstream international relations (IR) study of foreign policy has primarily focused on state behavior in the international system, examining factors such as the influence of decision-makers’ attitudes and beliefs, regime type, domestic political actors, civil society, norms, culture, and so forth on foreign policy. Much of this research has neglected to address women and gender in the context of studying foreign policy actors, decisions, and outcomes. Given that women are increasingly gaining access to the political process in terms of both formal government positions and informal political activism, and recognition by the international community of women’s roles in peace and war, feminist international relations (IR) scholars have challenged the assumptions and research focus of mainstream IR, including the study of foreign policy. Feminist international relations (IR) scholars have shown that countries with greater gender equality have foreign policies that are less belligerent. How do we account for foreign policies that are explicitly focused on women’s empowerment and gender equality? The main questions motivating the research on feminism in foreign policy are as follows. Is there a gender gap between men and women in terms of foreign policy? If so, what explains the gender gap? Research shows that the evidence is mixed—for example, men and women often agree on foreign policy goals and objectives, but sometimes differ on what actions to take to achieve those goals, primarily whether to use force. In considering where the women are in foreign policy, scholars examine women’s representation and participation in government, as gender equality is related to women’s representation and participation. While an increasing number of women have entered formal politics, whether as heads of state/government, cabinet and ministerial positions, and ambassadorships, for example, women remain underrepresented. The question also arises as to whether and how women’s participation and representation (descriptive and substantive representation) impact foreign policy. Does increased women’s participation and representation lead to a foreign policy focused on “women’s issues” and gender equality? Is a critical mass of women necessary for policies that promote gender equality and women’s empowerment? Finally, what does it mean to have a feminist foreign policy?

Article

Geography and Foreign Policy  

Steve Pickering

The relationship between geography and foreign policy is deep and fundamental. Yet it is far more complex than many recognize, and many authors, including scholars who should know better, fall into the trap of determinism. This article will describe the ways in which critical approaches can help us to look at geography and foreign policy by building the frameworks for analyses including religion, popular geopolitics, and feminism. Additionally, it will argue that once we have understood the dangers of an overly simplistic approach to geography, we need to apply new, cutting-edge geospatial methods to better understand how geography and foreign policy are related. By doing so, we can deal with important international issues, such as war and peace, and climate change.

Article

Women, Equality, and Citizenship in Contemporary Africa  

Robtel Neajai Pailey

Though deeply contested, citizenship has come to be defined in gender-inclusive terms both as a status anchored in law, with attendant rights and resources, and as agency manifested in active political participation and representation. Scholars have argued that gender often determines how citizenship rights are distributed at household, community, national, and institutional levels, thereby leaving women with many responsibilities but few resources and little representation. Citizenship laws in different parts of Africa explicitly discriminate based on ethnicity, race, gender and religion, with women bearing the brunt of these inequities. In particular, African women have faced structural, institutional, and cultural barriers to ensuring full citizenship in policy and praxis, with contestations in the post-independence era centering around the fulfillment of citizenship rights embedded in law, practice, and lived experience. While African women’s concerns about their subjective roles as equal citizens were often sidelined during nationalist liberation movements, the post-independence era has presented more meaningful opportunities for women in the continent to demand equality of access to citizenship rights, resources, and representation. In contemporary times, a number of local, national, continental, and transnational developments have shaped the contours of the battle for women’s citizenship equality, including the prominence of domestic women’s movements; national constitutional reviews and revisions processes; electoral quotas; female labor force participation; and feminism as a unifying principle of gender justice. African women have had to overcome constraints imposed on them not only by patriarchy, but also by histories of slavery, colonialism, structural adjustment, land dispossession, militarism, and neoliberalism. They have often been subordinated in the domestic or private sphere, with gendered values and norms then undermining their agency in the public sphere. Although African women have managed to secure some political, socio-economic, and cultural rights, resources, and representation, this has certainly not been the panacea for achieving full equality of citizenship or gender justice.

Article

Intersectionality and Political Ambition  

Shauna Lani Shames

Understanding political ambition in an intersectional way requires some familiarity with both subjects. Intersectionality is first explored as a concept and practice, and then the discussion turns to an explanation of political ambition (in multiple forms). In addition, intersectionality can be applied to the theory and research on political ambition, particularly in the context of candidate emergence. Since Crenshaw’s article, and especially after 2000, the term intersectionality and the concept that it defines have become a central part of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies in academic circles and of feminist movement organizations in the real world. Although the term originally referred to the intersection of race with gender, it has expanded to include other forms of identity. The central metaphor for the concept as it has come to be used could be seen as the asterisk; each of us has a multiplicity of identities (race and gender, but also age, class, religion, sexual orientation, ability/disability, and more). The “self,” or subject, lies at the intersection of these many axes of identity. Difficulties continue to arise, however, in finding coherence in both theoretical and empirical works adopting an intersectional perspective. Should the concept be tied to its original understanding of the overlap between race and gender? Which race? With each additional axis of identity that we examine in a scholarly way, we gain specificity, but perhaps lose some generalizability. Taking into consideration all aspects of identity that define a whole person would be nearly impossible across any group. (Even a collection of young gay male Native Americans, say, would likely have all kind of differences that go far beyond their initial similarities.) Pushed to its logical extreme, the concept of intersectionality can threaten a feminist politics that seeks to take the “women” group as its subject. Turning to women as political candidates, a growing number of studies examine gender and political ambition, particularly in the context of candidate emergence (with a smaller but also growing subset looking at a second type of political ambition, progressive, referring to the decision to run for higher office once someone is already in office. Multiple works agree that women’s initial and progressive political ambition are lower than their comparable male counterparts’ levels, and such works give us valuable hypotheses and evidence about the reasons for this gender gap. Recent studies have begun to examine race as well as gender in order to perform studies of political ambition that are intersectional in approach and methodology, although these are limited in number, often due to the small numbers of women of color as candidates and elected officials. However, this article profiles some of the excellent work being done on this topic. By first looking at previous thinking and empirical work on intersectionality, doing the same for political ambition, and then bringing together these two fields of study, this article addresses the theoretical and empirical issues involved in studying political ambition in an intersectional way. In particular, at this point in the study of political ambition, it is crucial that we see more studies examining the different types of identification that make up intersectionality, how they can fit together, and how this overlap can affect women’s political ambition. Although this article is focused on American women, as they are the subject of much of the intersectionality and political ambition literature, this framework can be used more broadly by scholars studying women outside of the United States, who would certainly face many of the same challenges and questions.

Article

Afro-Latin Social Movements in Latin America and the Caribbean  

Kwame Dixon

This article examines the rise of Afro-Latin social movements in Latin America and the Caribbean from the late 1970s to the early 2000s. It seeks to understand what factors explain the rise of black consciousness and black social movements. Theoretically, it explores the multidimensional nature and meaning of blackness as a social constructions and how such constructions may contribute to or limit Afro-based social movements. Contrary to popular perception, Afro-Latin social movements are not new, but form part of the long history of black resistance in the Americas. Although Black social movements in Latin America and the Caribbean are not new and have long histories like those of Maroon, Quilombo, Cimarròn, and Palenque societies, it is argued that the1970s witnessed an uptick in Afro-referenced social movements across the region. These movements, although in no way monolithic, represented a repertoire of various identities, ideas, and philosophies. Their agendas were framed in the context of racial and social justice demanding social, economic, and cultural rights long denied to them. Theoretically, Afro civil society as a specific Black space and cultural site, is theorized to show how many of these movements emerged. Afro civil society therefore is used to place these movements within a theoretical and historical timeframe.